How the new Iron Man speaks to our need for a new identity in Christ
One of the reasons why I love comic books is the freedom writers and illustrators have in accentuating human nature, actions, and reactions. In a world governed by fictional boundaries, we are granted a glimpse into fantastical abilities and impossible scenarios, but one aspect that can cause us to ponder more deeply, and certainly more applicable, is the duality of good and evil within a character. The comic book universe is founded on preset titles of good versus evil: Superman is a hero, while Lex Luthor is a villain. The former, no matter how bad he gets (i.e. Injustice storyline), is expected to come back or rewritten in a new story as the hero again, while the latter can never be fully redeemed. Their names and titles dictate their fate in a fictional, and not to mention regularly rewritten, universe. Lex can never be redeemed, and even if he has a change of heart, readers can never fully trust his intentions. Certainly, the writers will never let it happen as the corporations have already predestined their fates.
In a recent storyline, Tony Stark has vanished, leaving a multitude of Iron Man series. One of which is The Infamous Iron Man in which Victor Von Doom, aka. Doctor Doom, saw the futility of his search for power and attempt to redeem himself not by becoming a heroic Dr.Doom, but by taking on the Iron Man mantle. He knew his reputation is irredeemable and the only way he can pursue his new virtues is with a new identity, an identity nobler than his own. Sounds familiar?
The duality of good and evil within Dr.Doom is one we all should identify with. Not in the sense that we should pursue evil deeds for a time and then come to learn piety in the next, but to recognize that each of us is fully capable of the worst actions and reactions this side of heaven. None of us needs to be labelled as a sociopath or psychopath to be a certified villain.
Many times when I watch the news and hear the descriptions by the media or victims of murderers, con man, and various criminals, I cringed. I cringed not because the description was not accurate. They are monsters, sadistic, animals, despicable, evil, and so on and on. I am conflicted because I know we are all capable of such deeds. It only takes a second; it only takes a bit of pride, a dose of anger, a dash of jealousy, greed, lust, and a whole lot of self, to become one of the Dr.Dooms in the world. Some might argue they, themselves, are nothing like those unworthy human beings that are locked up in the cage. That they have never committed such atrocities and that they have always bought a dozen boxes of Girls Guide cookies when they come knocking at the door, but still these actions prove nothing of the heart and the mind. Have you ever imagined, when another driver cuts you off, when a telemarketer called you at 8 am, or when someone slight your family, you imagine the divine power like those of superheroes, or I should say super villains to come bearing down on them. Vengence, murder, and agony for all those that have offended you. Thankfully it’s only in your heart and mind. Thankfully I am still a better human being because I only think of bad things but not act on them.
Someone once said “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person;” We are defiled, tainted, imperfect, not because we have committed a crime and broken the law, but because of what is already in our heart. It’s not that we don’t know what justice is or what is right and wrong. We see glimpses of peace, of solidarity with others, of caring for the oppressed and orphaned. We see what it should be, and yet we can never fully be it because of the tainted nature of our hearts. We are all Dr.Doom trying to redeem ourselves, but how does one save oneself from themself? If self-centeredness is the root of our inability to be saved, how is it possible for me to save myself? It is impossible, and indeed, history has shown that no man or woman was able to do so. Except one, the one who I quoted at the beginning of this paragraph.
The writers of [Infamous] Iron Man realize there is no way readers will let go of Victor’s reputation and history without putting him into a whole new person, another name, a heroic identity. The comic, while it’s about Victor, is not called “The New Doctor Doom”, but it’s under the banner of Iron Man. In much the same story, our hearts and our lives need a new identity, not just a self-help guide and a refreshed title. We needed a whole new self, one that does not centre on us, but around someone much better and much more able to change our heart. For many, the name of Jesus, who happens to own the quote above, is as much believable as Superman and Green Lantern, and yet this person of Jesus has enacted change in this world far greater than any character real or fictional. His ability to change isn’t just on the macro level, but they are all deeply relational. He changes people, transform them, and they, in turn, change the course of history. His followers are not perfect; their transformation takes a lifetime, and yet their hearts and minds are forever changed. Their lives are no longer about the self or for those who they choose to love, but it is even for those that had offended them. It is a realization that we are all equally inadequate and doomed if it wasn’t for the perfect Son of God who paid the price for our evilness, deeds or thoughts, died on a Roman cross and supernaturally rose from the grave to signal the completion of the greatest redemptive act in all time. Is it not a great story? It is certainly that, but it also points to a greater reality for you and me.
This new Dr.Doom is indeed a reflection of all of us. We can attempt to find satisfaction in power, money, sex, and fame. We can even try and find purpose by doing good and helping others, but in the end, nothing we do is an answer to the age-old question of life and death. We are finite and limited. We come into this world with nothing, and we will leave this world without anything. We can choose to let our broken selves lead itself through life, or we can accept the saving hand of a God that will lead us to salvation, redemption, and a new identity. Doctor Doom was no more, his name is still Victor, but he is now the Iron Man. Who will you choose to be?
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God —
- John 1:12
assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.